15 October, 2014

Designing a Boffer LARP System (Part 25)

Now that we’ve reached the advantages of gathering characters into factions, it’s probably a good time to look at how those factions might form and what limitations might be placed on factions.

Since factions can start from 3 players, and could theoretically expand to cover any number of players, the variations possible are endless. Personally, I think the narrower the definition of the faction, the more focused it will be, and the stronger the relationships between the characters in that faction. More inclusive factions, on the other hand, then to have a wider focus and looser relationships.

The first thing that could define a faction is race; whether that comes in the form of specific races being permitted to join or specific races being denied entry to the faction. There’s an inherent racism and prejudice when saying a faction may only possess members of a single race; I’m not includes applying moral judgement to that choice of racism/prejudice, I’m just saying that it’s a thing. If a specific faction decides to only welcome members of the Dhampyr race, then it might be justified as a Dhampyr supremacist group, or maybe an alliance of like minded individuals who work together to explore the Dhampyr condition. Such a group wouldn’t make sense to have non-Dhampyr’s present, but it might loosely affiliate with other races outside the faction. A single race faction has a simple intrinsic weakness, since magic will be keyword related, and all members of a single race share a specific keyword, then an area effect targeting a specific keyword will target all members of the faction (for better or worse).

If a faction is defined as an anti-Wyldkin hate group, they might invite members of all races to join…except Wyldkin. There’s an inherent racism/prejudice in that as well. But when a group is so open, with so many options for its members, it becomes necessary to create additional defining aspects for the group if it wants to retain a level of focus and not just devolve into a beige blurred mess of incoherence. Naturally, this particular group might require its members to have been attacked by a Wyldkin (or have lost a family member to them). The drawback with this type of group comes from the defining races not permitted; what does an anti-Wyldkin group do when there are no Wyldkin in the game to fight against?

Personally, I think that if you want direction in a faction, but don’t want to narrow the focus too far, then a grouping of two races is probably a good starting point. Maybe a third if you’re using the more obscure race options.

This is exactly the same for cultures. One culture becomes a narrow focus, all but one culture becomes very nebulous and vague unless there are other defining factors.

Occupations could be an interesting way to define a faction, but since occupations are so transient in this game it would be pretty debilitating for a faction if it only allowed members who were current members of a specific profession. We are a faction based on a ship anchored on the north side of the harbour, we will only allow people who are sailors to join us. Instead, every character who follows an occupation gains access to certain abilities and techniques, before they move on to new occupations. If a group were pondering this as the criteria for membership, it would make far more sense to restrict characters based on the possession of a specific ability level, or the possession of a certain technique.

A final way to define a faction might be through the completion of a specific task or quest. This kind of quest should probably work as something than can be done on the side while other activities are engaged, rather than something that requires a dedicated GM and story. This might be a better way to define a faction for characters who are already in the game, rather than allowing players to write in their backstories “Oh, yeah, a couple of years ago I completed the Trial of the Red Lotus, so now I’m a member of the Blood Coven”.

Now that I’m looking at it, the defining factors for factions are starting to look like the suggested methodology for defining prestige classes in D&D 3.0/3.5. The kinds of advantages I have in mind are vaguely similar too.

Other options for defining a faction could include the requirement to wear a specific uniform item (“a red shield”, “a black bandana”, “a surcoat emblazoned with a specific emblem”) to identify the members during the course of game, or maybe an in-game membership fee (“spend a gold coin every month to retain membership in the Colonial Gentleman’s Club”, “donate 2 units of timber or metal each month to the craftsman’s guild to gain access to their workshop”). There are dozens of ways a faction could restrict its entry, but if it ends up being too restrictive then many players will just look for other factions to join with their characters.

On the other hand, too many members may mean that the founders of a faction are suddenly swarmed by new members and lose control of the group they started. It’s all about balance.

(EDIT: I'v just reaslised that yesterday I mentioned that all faction members will be spending a minimum of one risked story XP into their faction each session. This is definitely a criteria for factional membership, some factions might define themselves by asking for public declarations of XP invested [within the faction anyway]. Some might evenrequire their members to use two of their story XP in this manner just to show the commitment of members.)
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